The League of European Research Universities [LERU] just published a paper sharing some successful experiences regarding doctoral education in Europe.
Doctoral education has changed significantly, not least to adapt to changing demands from a variety of employers. Universities have (re)developed structured programmes and are embedding in them a great choice of professional development training opportunities for doctoral researchers.
For example, under the heading formal research training, there are masterclasses promoting creativity and risk-taking in novel research, toolkits to help doctoral researchers with information management in their research, courses or mentoring to support them to finish their PhD successfully and on time, and individual training plans, just to name a few. Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France, found, for example, that the risk of being unemployed is lower for PhDs who start to plan their professional project and their job search early.
A doctoral candidate’s ability to self-initiate and drive activities is part of the process of becoming an independent researcher. LERU universities provide all sorts of training in this area, from online progress logs and self-assessment tools to doctoral networking events or associations and student-led training for conference organising.
To highlight the wide range of career opportunities there are career days and fairs, employer-led career skills workshops and events with specific targets such as less well-known occupational fields for humanities graduates.
Structuring or refreshing of programmes is common at LERU universities and happens in a variety of ways. Some universities go for one overarching graduate school, sometimes also including Masters students and postdoctoral researchers, while others have several or many schools. Much attention is given to develop innovative interdisciplinary structures and international or interregional exposure.
LERU formulates some recommendations for universities, but also for policy makers (e.g. support programmes that encourage intellectual risk-taking and creativity), for funders (e.g. ensure that funded programmes demonstrate their effectiveness in developing skills) and for employers (e.g. engage with universities on training provision). In particular LERU urges the European Commission to take up these recommendations in the further development of the European Research Area and in the deployment of Horizon 2020 and other research-related funding programmes.
The full paper can be read on the LERU website.